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Home   Canterbury   News   Article

Dying wife Mavis Nye battles for change in law to speed up treatment for mesothelioma after husband worked with asbestos in Chatham Dockyard

27 February 2014
by Jamie Bullen

When doctors told Seasalter pensioner Mavis Nye she was suffering from mesothelioma she knew straight away it was the result of cleaning her husband’s clothes after returning from work at Chatham Dockyard.

The asbestos-related cancer was caused by shaking the dust-filled garments before breathing in lethal fibres which can cause cancerous cells to develop.

Mavis caught a deadly lung disease after washing husband Ray's clothes

Mavis caught a deadly lung disease after washing husband Ray's clothes

Her husband, Ray, worked for five years as a shipwright at the dockyard during the 1960s before he left the industry.

In 2009 she was given three months to live but the 72-year-old is fighting on spurred by calls for a new law to speed up urgent medical treatments.

In the past five years she has had chemotherapy at hospitals in London and Canterbury to prevent the cancer from growing, but there are no new treatments available after she began suffering allergic reactions.

Speaking at her home in Seasalter Lane, Mavis said she knew instantly her exposure to asbestos through washing clothes was the reason she had cancer.

She said: “I knew straight away. We thought Ray would get it because he’s lost all his mates he used to work with but the shock was it was me instead.

Mavis washed Ray's work clothes - which caused the cancer - decades ago

Mavis washed Ray's work clothes - which caused the cancer - decades ago

“Ray does feel guilty because he thought it would be him and not me, but asbestos just wasn’t considered dangerous in those days.

“I don’t know how long I’ve had it. We came here in 2000 and I was fine then suddenly in 2009 my arm went numb and I couldn’t even walk to the WI.

“They discovered there was fluid in my lungs and I was told I’d only have three months to live.

“I’ve lived an active life. I go swimming and to keep fit classes and I only smoked on occasion.

“I lived those months like they were my last. I chucked all my clothes out, bought new furniture and spent time putting everything in order.”

Mavis said her last battle was to help change the law for sufferers of life-threatening illnesses to opt for new treatments where standard medicines had failed.

“Ray does feel guilty because he thought it would be him and not me, but asbestos just wasn’t considered dangerous in those days" - Mavis Nye

On Tuesday, she travelled to Parliament with Lord Saatchi to launch a consultation on his medical innovations bill, introduced after the death of his wife from ovarian cancer in 2011.

She said: “History was made this week. The debate was blown wide open.

“With mesothelioma, it’s not an old man’s disease any more.

“I knew a teacher who got it from pinning work on the wall and there are cases where children die.

“If this bill was available now, it might be easier for me to find other treatments and at this stage I’d try anything.

“I said I want the bill and I want it now because I don’t know how long I will have left.”


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